Tuesday 17 September 2019

Student (34) awarded €47k over broken arm he suffered while being arrested and handcuffed by garda

Arrested during a public order incident

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Tim Healy

A man has been awarded €47,500 by a High Court jury after he suffered a broken arm while handcuffed and being arrested during a public order incident.

Eamonn Cunniffe (34), from Ballymore, Athlone, sued the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner over the incident in Athlone on February 9, 2012.

He claimed his injury was the result of excessive force being used when a knee or foot was used to to lift him, while his hands were cuffed behind his back.

After nearly four-and-a-half hours deliberation, a jury of five women and seven men found the injury was caused by Garda Kieran Dempsey, who is stationed in Athlone, during the course of Mr Cunniffe's arrest and that more force than was reasonably necessary in the circumstances had been used.

It also found the injury was not contributed to by Mr Cunniffe. 

Mr Cunniffe, who is a student, suffered a comminuted spiral fracture of his left humerus which required a plate to be surgically inserted in his upper arm, the court heard. He said this had left him unable to pursue sporting activities or lift his children when they were born.

The defendants denied his claims and said the injury was cause as a result of a previous altercation between Mr Cunniffe and an employee of a takeaway restaurant where the incident began.

Mr Cunniffe told the court he had been drinking from the afternoon of the incident and, after leaving a night club with his brother at around 3am, went to the chipper where he asked to use the toilets but was told they were closing and he could not.

A row ensued between himself and the staff and as he was leaving he kicked out at a window in the chipper, which he said was already cracked.

The altercation continued out on the street where the chipper employee sat on Mr Cunniffe after they fell to the ground.

Mr Cunniffe accepted he was drunk on the night and that he had 20 previous convictions over the the previous ten years for public order offences. He said however they were due to alcohol and depression and, the court heard, he has been sober for eight months now.

He said when he was being lifted from the ground with the handcuffs on he heard his arm break. He asked the garda to take the cuffs off but this was refused. When he arrived at Athlone Garda Station, a doctor said he should be taken by ambulance to hospital.

Garda Dempsey said when he arrived he asked the chipper worker to get off Mr Cunniffe. He was dealing with the situation when Mr Cunniffe lunged the chipper worker.

He was brought to the ground again by the garda with the help of the chipper worker where he was handcuffed.

Garda Dempsey denied he used excessive force in lifting him off the ground. He disagreed that CCTV evidence from the garda street camera showed a foot being used to lift him.

Following the verdict, Mr Justice Paul Coffey gave a decree for €47,500 and adjourned the question of costs to Monday.

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